Friday, October 24, 2008


Half-term starts today at lunchtime, and we resume school on Monday 3rd November. After half-term there will be plenty of news about our impending production of My Fair Lady (November 13th to 15th) as well as the usual mix of pupil contributions and English-associated matters.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Ambrose, Hosseini, Boyne

More TY Extended Essay reading ...

Kate Boyd Crotty recommends John Boyne's The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (also recommended by Robbie Hollis earlier): "This book, set during World War II, is about a boy whose father is a Nazi. They move to a place near a concentration camp and the boy makes friends with a young Jew through the fence. I liked the book because it had a factual background, but also presented a fictional story at the same time. It was enjoyable and very sad at the same time as this historical tragedy actually happened, and some people's lives ended very cruelly. It tells how hard life was then and how oblivious some people were of what was going on."

Andrew Martin recommends Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns (previously, Andy McCabe recommended the same author's The Kite Runner), and writes : "This book is about different peoples' struggle through Civil War in Afghanistan. It shows different relationships and how they can be affected by war. There are three different sections in the book; the first two deal with the stories of different people, and the third section we see those two people ending up together."

Finally, another war book : Bevan Nunan is reading Stephen Ambrose's non-fiction work Band of Brothers (which was turned into a TV series by Steven Spielberg, below):- "This is a factual book about World War II. Although it is factual, there is a lot more in it than facts. Ambrose concentrates on telling about the thoughts and relationships of the men, and how they grew to have their unique bond as a 'band of brothers'. He gives true insights into the spirits of the men and portrays the harsh realities of their experience. The intensity of war brought these men to hell, but they did not give up, never letting their fellow soldiers down. The telling of their struggle is emotional, a powerful piece of literature that is easy and interesting to read, not just for those who enjoy reading about war."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Belinda Seaward

Tonight in the Upper Cadogan (6.45 to 7.30pm), the novelist Belinda Seaward will be reading from and discussing her work, including her very successful novel Hotel Juliet. Her first novel was The Avalanche, and she's just finished her third, which she'll talk about tonight. We'll have a report here in due course.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Northern Lights, How I Live Now, Holes

More TY pupils write about books they are reading for their Extended Essays:

Olivia Plunket recommends Meg Rosoff's How I Live Now : "This is about children having to become adults, when war hits England. The reason I chose this and why I like it, is because it's such an extraordinary thing, an 8 year-old boy having to become a man. It is about how war pulls you apart, and takes things away from you, including childhood. This family has to find a way through war without parents, or adults, and that is what is unique about it."

Steffan Davies is reading Philip Pullman's Northern Lights. Pullman's 62nd birthday was two days ago: see the excellent His Dark Materials website here. Steffan writes : "This novel is the first book in the trilogy. It is about a young girl's adventure with a crazy brother, a dangerous father and an armoured polar bear named Iorek Byrnison. This young girl's quest leads her to the bleak splendour of the North Pole. I find the main character too mature for her age, and this makes the book unrealistic. Originally I read this book hoping to find links to religion, but was unable to find any such substantial connection."

Aljoscha von Bismarck is reading Louis Sachar's Holes : "I chose this book because I like the way it's written. I haven't read many books, but I really enjoyed this, because it is a good story, both funny and sad. If a book is too serious I get bored by it. I also like the way he changes the whole time between two stories. But these stories are also connected, so while you read you have to pay attention."

Meanwhile, in the weekly Library update on the College website, Tom McConville writes about the Booker Prize, and the winner The White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga, here.

Monday, October 20, 2008

P, I, II form plays

Last night in the BSR we had the annual Primary, I and II form plays, to kick off the drama season. The I form presented Hiss the Villain (and Boo), an old-style melodrama featuring (amongst others) Emmet Minch as the snake-hipped villain Snaker, Rishi Manuel as his nemesis Bowler, Aidan Chisholm as the narrator, and Sally Beeby and Molly Buckingham as the mother and daughter Nobles. It was directed by Mr Peter McCarthy (with additional assistance on the ivories) and Mr Michael Patterson.

This was followed by an entertaining version of Jack and the Beanstalk (right), written by II formers Nicole Cosgrove and Lily Guinness and directed by Ms Anne Hallahan. This featured Jack (Jamie Boyd), a giant (Neil Dalrymple), as well Zach Stephenson, Freddie Cole, Niamh Faulkner and more performers.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Steinbeck, Morpugo, Haddon

Further TY book recommendations for the Extended Essay:-

Patrick McGonagle is reading John Steinbeck's short novel The Pearl, and comments:- "This is a classic American novel, which tells the story of a poor family living in an island-type town. They find a giant pearl while diving one day after their small son is bit by a scorpion and is in dire need of help. The pearl sets the small town upside down and the family goes on the mission of their lives to preserve the pearl, with an incredible ending. The imagery in the book is amazing and the author does an unbelievable job of showing the family's ignorance about the outside world, and their provincialism."

Fergus Morton recommends The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon : "It is about a boy who suffers from autism, and how he investigates the killing of his neighbour's dog. I would recommend this book for all ages, as it is as appealing to a younger generation as an older one. The boy is quite innocent, and he doesn't understand everything, so you see how he interprets things."

Patrick O'Malley is reading Private Peaceful, by Michael Morpugo : "This is a good book written by a former Children's Laureate. It tells the story of the Peaceful family during the First World War. I would definitely recommend it."

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Hosseini, Kidd

Continuing our series of book recommendations from the TY Extended Essay project:-

Jessica Sheil is reading The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd : "I really enjoyed this book. It was very different to a lot of the books I have read before. It touches on many varied topics, such as childhood, racism, love and abuse. It is about a girl who accidentally killed her mother when she was three, and who now lives with her abusive father and maid. She is incredibly unhappy and finally decides to act on it. She always thinks of her mother, and how she was the only thing she wanted, and she herself took her away. In the book there is also a strong feeling of love of nature, and religion. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and fell in love with some of the characters."

Andy McCabe is reading a book that was recommended last year here, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, and at the bottom of the post is again the Animoto video put together from photographs by our friend Terry O'Malley of Safe. Andy writes : "This book, based in Afghanistan, is narrated by a 12 year-old, who has moved to live in America. It is a story of fathers and sons, friendship and betrayal, and the casualties of fate. It is the tragic story of how so many lives have been ruined by the invasion, and how one man has lost almost everything, mostly importantly everyone he once cared for.

Amir is the main character, and after being thrown out of his own country and moved to America for almost fifteen years, he is sent back to war-turn Afghanistan, on a mission for one of his lost close friends. It is a moving fictional story which I would recommend to everyone."

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Library News

Above, a Wordle of some recent new books in our Library (click for a closer view). Here is the most recent notice from our Librarian, Tom McConville. Included are such books as Christopher Paolini's Brisingr, from his hugely popular Inheritance cycle, Sebastian Barry's The Secret Scripture (which was recently shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize) and Conversations with Derek Walcott, a selection of interviews with the Nobel Prize winning poet who's now on the Leaving Certificate rota.

We recommend regular visits to the new Library News page of the College website here. It will be updated weekly. Next Thursday, a team of V formers will be attending the annual Library Quiz, this time in Muckross College, hosted by Ryan Tubridy.

Poetry Aloud success

Congratulations to our three entrants, Opeline Kellett, William Maire and Molly Buckingham, who were three of the five contestants selected out of 60 participants yesterday to qualify for the Poetry Aloud semi-finals, from their regional heat. Opeline and William previously read their poems in Chapel.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

'Tour', by Carol Snow

The 36th Poem of the Week is our shortest so far : Carol Snow's 'Tour', which can be seen here on Billy Collins's Library of Congress Poetry 180 site ('a poem a day for American high schools').

This morning our 15 entrants for the Poetry Aloud competition are at the National Library in Kildare Street reciting their poems. The poetry of Thomas Kinsella features prominently, in celebration of his 80th birthday this year.

House Speeches 08

Here, Sophie Millar comments on the recent Transition Year House Speech Competition :

Transition Year Speeches ’08 is something that will forever sculpture and symbolize our year. I think, for me, it was certainly an event which gave the unique essence of our small society. We had humorous Harry Bravery introducing each courageous speaker in that infamous laughable accent, and in passing making some witty comments. As for each speaker, they approached the daunting crowd with great confidence and in most cases with impressive casualness. I think this was most profoundly shown in Alex Cafolla’s speech and Andrew Martin’s. Everyone did so well and they should be really proud of themselves! I sure have great respect for them as I know I couldn’t have done anything like it.

First off we had Kate, speaking about Offaly, who had the hard task of being first. Then was Andy McCabe, bravely skateboarding on stage; following him we had Harry Brooke on his baby sister, Jake Jacobson on the Olympics, Olivia Plunkett on embarrassing parents, Jessy Sheils on footwear and Andrew Martin (irritating girls). Andrew had great fluency and humour with a great reaction from the audience. I’m very happy for him that he won. Finishing off we had Alex (his hair), Rob (JCT team) and Virginia. I don’t know what to say about them, they were amazing and showed great character.

As for the interval I think they all should win some kind of prize, it surely showed what our year is all about. I can’t say anything critical as anything that makes me smile that much can have nothing but positive comments. Well done to some strange way I feel immensely proud of them!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

TY Extended Essays 2

More recommendations of books being read for the Transition Year Extended Essay project.

Winta Bairu is reading The Outsiders, by S.E.Hinton : "As part of my essay, I have been reading this book, which takes us back to the 1950s, when Greasers and Socials (Socs) fought on the streets. This is an enduring story with distinctive qualities in the characters on both sides of the neighbourhood conflict. All you can hope is that these characters realize that if a Greaser bleeds, so will a Soc. Both feel the same pain."

Robbie Hollis has been reading John Boyne's The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, recently released as a film : "This book is about a boy whose father is a Nazi. He is very high ranking. The family are moved to Auschwitz in Poland, and Bruno, the boy, hates it there, until he meets a friend called Shmuel on the other side of a fence. The book is about their secret friendship, which must remain just that - secret. The novel is very well written, in the third person but from Bruno's viewpoint. He doesn't understand why these people are on the other side of the fence, but slowly discovers the horrors of the Final Solution."

Below, the trailer for the film :

Monday, October 13, 2008

Happy Days

This evening, some V formers are going to Beckett's Happy Days at the Abbey Theatre, with Fiona Shaw (above) and Tim Potter. This Deborah Warner-directed production has received great acclaim in its tour. In the Dublin Theatre Festival, it's been discussed in the Irish Times on Saturday by Fintan O'Toole here and Fiona Shaw herself here, and by Bruce Arnold in the Independent here. Deborah Warner discusses her approach in the Guardian here, and there's a summary of British and American reviews here.
Below, Shaw speaks to WNYC Radio of New York about playing the part:

Sunday, October 12, 2008

TY Extended Essay recommendations

Transition Year pupils are now well into their reading for their Extended Essay projects. Over the next week or so, we'll be posting recommendations from their reading.

Susannah Cooke recommends Robert Alexander's The Kitchen Boy - a novel of the last Tsar, and writes: 'This is a novel about how the Russian imperial family were executed, and about the events leading up to it. It is based on true escape letters, and many characters are real. It is a very original approach to the death of the Romanovs. It is written through the eyes of their 'kitchen boy', and shows what he saw in the last days of the family. It is very interesting, and an enjoyable read that has many twists throughout the story. I'd strongly recommend it to anyone who is interested in the Romanovs or the Russian Revolution.'

Jack Armstrong is reading Pierre Peju's The Girl from the Chartreuse : 'The plot is that a small girl gets hit by a car and is taken to a hospital. The man who hit her reads books to her, and the story is about what they are going through. I really like the way the author describes all the surroundings and how the characters are feeling. The part I don't like about the book is the way the author skips back in time to tell you what sort of life they were living: I got confused when that happened.'

Friday, October 10, 2008

Memory at Work 3

The final collection of pieces from Mr Swift's I form set, following Wednesday's and Thursday's:-

Michael Dunne to Another Level: I’m in Robbie’s room, this is how they get up but they are taller than me. I think I just saw a glimpse of someone’s leg. Yes, it is Robbie.
“If you can get on the roof I’ll give you this packet of chocolate buttons.”
“I can’t reach.”
I can almost reach the window with a chair but I need some extra height. I can reach it if I jump but the chair might fall. I’ll do it. One, two, three. I catch the window and the chair doesn’t fall. I’m in luck.
There is so much snow on the roof but where is everyone else?
Robbie picks me up and turns me upside down.
“Here are your chocolate buttons.”

Salty Sally : We hop into the big donuts and set off at a slow pace. Then as we get out into the ocean we accelerate. I am shouting. My brother and Dad are laughing and shouting too. My brother, who is in the middle bangs in and out…all I can see is water. When I open my eyes I get a bucket of salty water thrown at me. The big, clear waves bounce us up in our donuts. My heart is thumping inside my blue T-shirt. All I can taste is salty water.

Sullivan’s PS2 Moment : I run my fingers along the sides and corners of the box and I feel a thin layer of cardboard separating me from my prize. I open the box slowly, as if I am about to cut the wire of a bomb. There is a great sense of pressure in the room. I open it slowly and see a black box. I carefully lift it out of its box and see the special three markings.

Emily Dickinson's Lover

On Slate, Christopher Benfrey has just written on Emily Dickinson's famously obscure love life :

Evidence that Dickinson's love life was fairly ordinary, with ordinary temptations and disappointments, doesn't quite fit the bill. Her exile on Main Street has seemed a necessary part of the Dickinson myth, so necessary, indeed, that contrary information—which happens to have been piling up lately—has often been discounted or ignored.

Continued here.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Memory at Work 2

More 'Memory at Work', pieces, following yesterday's ones (there will be more tomorrow) :

Harry’s Easter Feast : I am in my Granny’s garden. The smell of lavender fills my nostrils. What was that? Someone says something to me, something about Easter eggs. I see a large, brown, oval shaped object on the table, so tempting and inviting. I paw at the egg for a while inhaling the chocolaty aroma. I take a bite; it tastes good, like a chocolate bar, but better. All of a sudden it is gone, I’ve eaten it. My hunger is not satisfied though. I grab my sister’s egg as well and wolf it down in a matter of seconds. I’m not greedy; I’m just very, very hungry.

Ratty’s Gym Class Memory : The boy stands in the room. As the bell rings other kids pass him, gathering books and filing out of the class. Eventually he joins them. His mind races as the ball travels towards his face. He imagines a laughing James. The ball moves faster now towards him. He cannot dodge: every muscle wants to move but he is stuck fast. He covers his face and waits to be knocked off his feet, to sprawl on the floor. There is a loud ‘thunk’ as the ball hits the wall, bounces back and flies across the gym floor to land at the teacher’s feet.

Little Pia Torments the Ducks : It is noon and everyone is arriving at the river. It is a hot day and all the ducks are cooling off in the water. My nostrils are filled with the delicious scent of barbequed meat. When my friends arrive we want to go swimming but we are not allowed. Instead we try to catch the quacking ducks. Of course we don’t succeed - the ducks are much too swift.

Fox – Jessica’s first Sighting : It is a nice evening and the sun is about to go down. I am at my aunt’s house in England and I feel like a little swim in her outdoor pool. Then I see a fox thinking about jumping in too. This is the first fox I have ever seen. He is not nervous but he’s not friendly either. I take a photograph of him but when everyone else comes out they scare him away.

The Windhover

The 35th Poem of the Week is Gerard Manley Hopkins's 'The Windhover' :-

I caught this morning morning's minion, king-
dom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird -- the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous. O my chevalier!
No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.

In Chapel this morning Mr Girdham read this poem and 'Hurrahing in Harvest' during a talk on the importance of sound in poetry. As part of this, two of our entrants for the Poetry Aloud competition at the National Library performed poems by Thomas Kinsella - William Maire recited 'A Garden on the Point', and Opeline Kellett 'Tara'.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Danger: Memory at Work!

Ronan Swift writes:-

As part of a recent writing task Form 1b were asked to think about a memory from their early childhood and recollect it as they wished for prep. Then as part of a re-drafting exercise they were urged to do two things, firstly to try to move the magnifying glass of memory even closer to one moment or feeling. And secondly they were asked to slide from the past to the present tense to see if this gave their readers a greater sense of closeness and presence. Here are some of the results (three more shortly) :-

Hal’s Pressie : I run down the stairs to find the room filled with objects of all shapes and sizes. I feel wonderstruck at what these objects are wrapped in, some form of coloured paper. I look up to my Dad to ask him what’s going on and he smiles and tells me to open the stuff and I’ll see. I do as I am told. The first thing I open is huge and oddly shaped like a mutated rectangle. I tear the whole top right area of the object to see a seat attached to the rest of the thing by a metal pipe. My first bike.

July in Dubai by Dearbhala : Stella says my Mummy and Daddy have gone out. Aoife puts on a movie for us but Joseph says that we should make cards for them. I run upstairs and get my scrapping kit. Stella sets up the table as I lay the paper down. Aoife makes a pretty blue card; I make one with a princess on the front, she is dressed like my Mum. I peer over to see what Joe is making; it looks like ‘Merry Christmas’ and ‘Wrap up Tight’. I’m extremely confused and ask Stella why Joe is making Christmas cards in July and advising to wrap up tight in Dubai? She laughs, and explains that he’s just a little confused.

Tara’s Salon : I get out of bed and wake my brother; it is very early in the morning. We sneak into the bathroom as we had planned and reach up to the high shelf for the scissors. We snip away happily, not bothering to use a mirror. I cut one side of my hair off; my brother cuts straight through the middle of his. We hear footsteps, Mum is coming! My heart is pounding as I realise what I have just done. A feeling of guilt dashes through my body. My Mum comes in and her jaw drops.

Second Bell

Articles for the new magazine Second Bell should be sent to Mr Jameson at secondbell(at)gmail(dot)com by Thursday 23rd October (the day before half-term).

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

An Ideal Husband : review

Recently our Transition Year all went to the sold-out Abbey Theatre production of Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband. Here, Thomas Emmet reviews it :

The combination of director Neil Bartlett’s visionary skills and the cast’s raw talent makes this a play well worth seeing. (Read Thomas's full review here).

On Thursday, the whole TY goes to Druid production of Martin McDonagh's The Cripple of Inishmaan at the Olympia Theatre, directed by Garry Hynes. More on this in due course.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Derek Walcott Interview

The Caribbean Nobel Prize winner Derek Walcott is a new poet on the Leaving Cert rota; he's being examined in 2009 and 2010 for the first time. Today's Guardian has an interview with him here by James Campbell. He's about to direct an operatic version of Seamus Heaney's adaptation of Antigone, The Burial at Thebes, at the Globe Theatre in London.

Friday, October 03, 2008

House Speeches 2008

On Sunday we had our annual Transition Year House Speeches (summary of the results here). Now a member of the form, Amelia Shirley, reviews the evening, analysing the individual speakers and their performances :-

All in all the night was a huge success, and the interval entertainment impressed everyone. This consisted of seven boys and their “Mexican Band”. They all turned into Mexicans, with huge sombreros and the long handle-bar moustaches. They improvised “their beats” by tapping, banging and strumming on guitars, trays, jugs and chairs. Everyone found the night hugely enjoyable, and all the hard work and hours of careful planning definitely paid off.

Read Amelia's full review here.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Gathering Leaves, by Robert Frost

Our 34th Poem of the Week is Gathering Leaves (here) by Robert Frost. Above, one of our Wordles, based on this poem. Today is All Ireland Poetry Day - see events on the Poetry Ireland website here.

Mr Jameson is holding a preliminary meeting today at 1.30 in Kennedy for anyone interested in contributing to a proposed new school magazine, provisionally called 'Second Bell.'

Our entrants for the Poetry Aloud competition have been decided. More on this after the Exodus, which starts tomorrow, school resuming on Tuesday morning.